ATLANTA — President Joe Biden signed a bill Thursday for Juneteenth to become a federal holiday.
It’s the first time the U.S. has added a federal holiday to the calendar since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 1983.
Channel 2′s Tyisha Fernandes talked to Dr. Daniel Black, a professor of Black history at Clark Atlanta University, about the significance of the holiday, and how many people don’t know a lot about it.
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“We’ve got to stop thinking that Black history is for Black people,” Black said.
Black said elementary schools nationwide do a poor job of teaching students about Juneteenth.
The Emancipation Proclamation was supposed to free all slaves in 1863. But Texas seceded from the federal government, so slave owners in Texas didn’t comply.
Black said many slave owners across the south moved to Texas in order to keep their slaves.
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“And some in Texas, some white slaveowners, they had heard that the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed, but they knew they didn’t tell their enslaved individuals,” Black said.
General Granger, along with hundreds of Union troops, went down to Texas. Black said that Black Union soldiers volunteered to go because they wanted to make sure everybody knew about their own freedom.
“Some of them ran at night and went and told plantations, ‘You are free. Don’t you know you are free now?’” Black said.
The celebration of that freedom was “Juneteenth”, June 19, 1865.
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Activists are glad to see that Juneteenth is getting recognition, but the country still has a long way to go.
“I do not see how you can have a nationally recognized holiday that is for the suffrage of our ancestors without the reparations of slavery to go with it,” Black said. “To me, that’s like bathing without soap and water.”
Black said he hopes that the symbolism of recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday doesn’t cause people to lose steam in their right for reparations.
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